Aug 10 2015

Harrow Council Spending YOUR Money… On Buying Twitter Followers?

twitter_logoTwitter. An ideal way to reach the masses – we use it at iharrow.com ourselves to announce new articles – but there’s something very strange going on at the Civic Centre with their latest Twitter account: @champions_help – the new Twitter account for Harrow’s Community Champions.

Really, you ask? Well, yes, actually. The account has published a total of 136 tweets (including, bizarrely, pictures of houses in Crystal Palace, a picture of ice cream and waffles, monkeys peeling bananas – you can imagine the sort of thing, just what you’d want your council tax spent on). And those 136 tweets, which started on July 23 – just over two weeks ago – have gathered an amazing 20,900 followers.

How did an account, posting pictures of ice creams and moneys get such a huge following, which includes numerous accounts – for example – trying to flog cheap sunglasses. We dug.

It seems that a huge number of accounts are actually fake Twitter accounts, for example:

@hebame123 – joined February 20013, with zero tweets, yet following 201 people

@darmans10653218 – joined March 2013, with zero tweets, yet following 276 people

@gorkum1983 – joined December 2011, with zero tweets, yet following 776 people

@gossamplay777 – joined August 2012, with zero tweets, yet following 775 people

@grace34507684 – zero tweets, yet following 482 people

[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]Dave, you’re shittin’ us, right?[/pullquote]It’s all very strange. How would you get to nearly 21,000 followers in two weeks, yet find that a large number of them were fake accounts? This link explains in detail, but essentially you can do it with aggressive following/unfollowing (“…by following a large number of people each day, waiting for them to follow you, then unfollow those who don’t follow you back it is possible to artificially increase your followers very quickly.”) or, and this is where I’d place my bet, zombie account following (“by paying a 3rd party you can get 100s, 1000s of even 10,000s of followers…”).

So is this what your council has done, with your council tax? Paid some far-flung online outfit to find thousands of followers, in order to make the Community Champions looks a success? One blogger did exactly this, to see if it worked. He went from zero to over 26,000 followers overnight.

Every Twitter account is bound to have a couple of fakes. According to https://fakers.statuspeople.com/: @iharrow has 5% fake, 31% inactive, and 64% good. @champions_help has 86% fake, 2% inactive and 12% good.

It does look very much like Harrow Council – or, rather, it’s outsourced PR spin outfit, Lambeth Comms perhaps – are buying, with your council tax, Twitter followers. After all, it’s just numbers, right, and OtherPeoplesMoney is always so much easier to spend than your own. Dave, you’re shittin’ us, right? Do tell me your administration isn’t blowing our money on this load of tosh:

20140810_twiiter_banana 20140810_twiiter_houses 20140810_twiiter_monkey 20140810_twiiter_waffles

Buying Twitter followers might just, just, be forgivable, Dave. You’re a bloody brickie, Dave, not a leader after all. But paying – PAYING – people to Tweet this kind of crap? Really?


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  1. Sarah

    How suspicious of iharrow to suggest such a thing! I mean, why wouldn’t our Community Champions account need to be following a furniture shop in Liverpool or a cleaning company in Dartford?!

    In all seriousness, their Facebook ‘Likes’ are also very odd indeed. 783 likes in total, the vast majority of those happening on one day, 29th July, another small peak on another day, but other than that, virtually no likes, comments, or shares happening at all.

    I’m not sure I care too much about their desperate attempts to appear popular (unless of course my money has gone that way) but the constant rubbish they are vomiting all over their feeds is more than a little embarrassing.

    Oh, and a cover photo they’ve taken from a website called Pinner Local, no doubt without seeking permission first!

  2. Mason

    When most businesses start using Twitter, they experiment for a while. As a result, they often tweet about random topics.

    Never been a keen supporter of Harrow Council but I do enjoy reading the tweets on this Twitter account and happily following. My daughter finds the information fun and amusing but in some degree they have serious tweets as well.

    Well done Harrow Council.

    P.S Not happy about the £75 waste charges

    1. ricky123


  3. Abdul Moses

    Can Harrow Council hire me to work on their social media team too?? I’m happy to be paid in chocolate or waive the new £75 waste charge. Goes to show with this new Twitter account the peeps at Harrow HQ have a sense of humour and good for them.

  4. Josephine

    If you’re anything like me, there are probably certain traits that you see in other people that drive you crazy. For example, here are a few less-than-pleasant traits that most well-adjusted people can’t stand: rudeness, selfishness, thoughtlessness, laziness, arrogance, intolerance, dishonesty, and apathy, just to name a few. But there’s one more trait that’s not on the list above that truly drives me insane. I think that the reason why it annoys the hell out of me so much is because I used to be the living, breathing poster child for this miserable trait on a daily basis. I was a chronic complainer. Yup, yours truly. There used to be a time in the not-so-distant past where I would complain about anything and everything to anyone who had the misfortune of being stuck listening to my constant whining. It didn’t matter if it was about my job, the weather, the pain in my knee, my sorry bank account, my girlfriend drama, how busy I was, how tired I was (you get the picture). If something ever went wrong in my life, please trust that I would instantly put a negative spin on it, and then spend the rest of the day (or longer) complaining about it. To this day, I am so thankful that I had a mentor years ago who was willing to snap me out of my funk by giving me some much-needed tough love. He told me that my personal relationships would eventually suffer if I continued to constantly suck the energy out of every room with my complaining (he was right). He told me that my professional career would eventually stall out if I constantly repelled the people who I worked with by complaining instead of taking action (again, he was right). He told me that my mental, emotional, and even physical health would eventually decline if I didn’t make a decision to stop complaining and wallowing in negativity everyday (he was still right). It was then that he challenged me to do something that I thought would be completely impossible. More about that challenge is coming up later on in this post. Thankfully, I accepted his challenge, because doing so completely transformed my life. More accurately, it saved my life. I have never looked at complaining in the same way ever since, and if you engage in chronic complaining like I did, then you need some urgent help.

    I hope we see many more new Champions on harrow streets, making my grandchild’s life better. If this new publicity works for harrow then I’m happy I don’t use Twitter but from tonight I will sign up it looks great fun 🙂

    Life is short let’s embrace it – stop moaning

  5. Concerned Harrovian

    If I understand the article, and the comments beneath it correctly, Harrow Council have tried to pull the wool over residents eyes. if they are spending money to fake their popularity doesn’t this amount to corruption.

    I would appreciate a simple explanation as I am not knowledgeable about the workings of Twitter. When I hear the word fake I start to wonder just what Harrow council are up to!!!!

    Should they be reported to a standards committee for behaviour in public life if such a committee exists?

  6. Mike

    Why not just do a foi request, rather than speculating wildly whilst pushing your personal political opinions – despite claiming the site is politically neutral.

  7. Desmond

    Just signed up to become a Champion recently. Happy to help take some pride back in my local area. The tweets are fab especially the baby monkey, made me choke over my porridge this morning with laughter.

    If only the main council page was as funny it might deter the grumpy moaners.

    A friend of mine who’s a dentist in Harrow told me about an elderly, grouchy patient of hers. Every time he came in for an appointment he’d complain about the weather, his children, his car, taxes, society, and any other topic that might come up.

    Now you might think “Hey, she’s a dentist, fill his mouth with gauze and cotton and let’s see him complain then!” but my friend is a naturally happy person and would instead try to cheer him up. Didn’t work, just made him complain even more.

    So I taught her this trick and the next time he came in for an appointment she was ready. He went in the chair, and immediately started complaining.

    After listening to his usual litany for a while my dentist friend said, with deep sympathy in her voice, “You know, that sounds terrible. I don’t know how you deal with all of these problems.”

    You know what he said?

    “Weeeeell, it’s not THAT bad!”

  8. Tom

    The account has a nice personal feel to it, and does a great job of embodying the brand and Council.

    Twitter/Facebook is free. Bots operate on both channels (billions of them) check Google! 65% of followers on celeb accounts are either bots or inactive accounts.

    So stop the panicking and silly behavior and do something more constructive like empty bins or help by pulling some weeds up.

  9. Someonewhocares

    Well it all looks rather like the suspected artificial ‘seeding’ to me, too, but what we need are less Council twits making inane comments and more REAL activities surely? Unfortunately I believe Twitter is basically ‘opium for the masses’, in that it distracts folks away from the real issues … I suppose we can also all look forward to this Twitter feed being declared a success soon as ‘it has 100K followers after just one month’ or some such nonsense..

    I also suppose we can look forward to this Twitter feed being declared a ‘success’ either way…

  10. Desmond

    Simple and brilliant…..I am glad to know harrow council promoting a scheme which actually costs us nothing. At least they are making some kind of effort to recruit new community members to make streets better…you’ve restored my confidence harrow council :))!! I like you extra much for that….good work! Last thing: Any chance that you post some baby dogs please?

  11. Susan Hall

    Desmond Neighbourhood Champions were introduced six years ago, they are fabulous members of our community and we are indeed most grateful to them. They have been rebranded because Labour did not like to continue with a name devised by the Conservatives- rebranding was another waste of money. Labour Politicians in Harrow are very good at wasting Harrow Taxpayers money

  12. Callum Robson

    As you can see this more popular account has attracted a lot more unwanted followers. Let’s push the boat out and see if this trend follows to the extreme end of the scale. Barack Obama has 39,925,718 followers, here’s the breakdown:

    Fake: 57%
    Inactive: 38%
    Good: 5%

    Doing the stats, this means Barack Obama ‘only’ has 1,996,286 ‘good’ followers compared with smashing magazine’s 239,038 followers, suddenly the gap is significantly decreased (I use the word ‘only’ relatively here in terms of percentages of course, most of us could only dream of 2 million followers!).

    I agree that if you have fun, engage with people, and build relationships something @champions_help is doing very well with, compared with the hundreds of dull and non-engaging government accounts they are onto a winner. There are people I follow on Twitter that you can tell they have lots of followers because they engage all the time, and put a lot of time into it.

    I know I might have more if I spent more time on Twitter, but the time I do spend is very fun and gratifying. People on Twitter are pretty great. 😛 A lot of the people I interact with are bloggers, and I tend to think they’re pretty great too 🙂

    So lets start showing some support for organisations that are listening and engaging instead of pulling innovative ideas to peaces.

  13. Rob

    Lambeth Comms team are quick to find and acknowledge customer tweets that mention their brand, brand’s hashtags and all things local. Their Twitter conversations are welcoming and friendly, as evident in the Champions Twitter pages. As a local tax payer I see social media as value for money, but it will be interesting to see how much it has cost to manage.

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